Barring another offer to coach at a higher level, Jim Burton will be back as coach of the Augusta Lynx in 2001-02.
Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby said the Lynx and Burton have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for next season. Burton has yet to sign and return a contract faxed to his home in Fort Wayne, Ind., but Gamsby said he expects the coach to do so sometime this week.
"I'm very happy he wants to come back," Gamsby said. "I think he likes it here and think he enjoys working with us. I think he has a tremendous opportunity to be a coach at a much higher level someday. He's good for the team and good for the city and I hope the opportunity to coach in Augusta will be very, very good for him."
The 39-year-old Burton took over the Lynx after the firing of Scott MacPherson on Dec. 31. The Lynx went 21-13-3 under Burton and finished 36-29-7, clinching a playoff berth for the third straight year before being eliminated by New Orleans in the Southern Conference Wild Card playoffs.
Prior to joining the Lynx, Burton went 104-79-25 and made the postseason in each of his three seasons as a coach in the Western Professional Hockey League. After two seasons with Arkansas in the WPHL, he began the 2000-01 season as coach of the expansion Tucson Scorch, but the team folded before ever playing a game.
Attempts to reach Burton on his cell phone and at his home in Fort Wayne were unsuccessful. Gamsby said he was on a recruiting trip, scouting players in the American Hockey League, United League and WPHL for next season.
As for Gamsby, his future with the Lynx is up in the air. The 51-year-old has worked the past three years in Augusta without a contract, and insiders say he could be ready to move on.
"Right now, I'm working for the Augusta Lynx," Gamsby said. "I don't have a contract, so I don't know if I can say for sure if I'm going to be here. For now, I'm just going to keep doing the same job I've been doing the last few years."
All-star forward Jonas Soling has returned home to Sweden and reportedly is close to signing with the Brynas Tigers of the Swedish Elite League.
The 22-year-old winger set a Lynx franchise record with 41 goals this season and was named to the ECHL all-star team in 2000-01 for the second time in three seasons. He is in the final year of a three-year contract with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks and expressed a desire to return home for a chance to play in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City with the Swedish national team.
Soling has not yet officially received his transfer, but reports out of Sweden indicate the Brynas club could sign him as early as this week.
Defenseman John Whitwell underwent reconstructive knee surgery April 12, and although the procedure was a success, Gamsby said his recovery will take about six months, meaning he likely won't be ready to start the 2001-02 season.
Forward Sandy Lamarre also had shoulder surgery recently but is expected to be ready when training camp begins in late September.
Center Lars Pettersen (shoulder) and defenseman Denis Chervyakov (knee) are scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday. Pettersen's surgery is considered minor, as doctors will clean up some of the damage from a shoulder dislocation suffered in November. Chervyakov's procedure will be significant - the veteran defenseman tore his ACL and MCL in March.
Center Paul Vincent also needs knee surgery, but Gamsby said he did not know when he would undergo the procedure.
Lynx play-by-play man Jerry Canaan also is recovering from surgery last week to correct a sinus condition.
Lynx captain Scott Morrow and defenseman Cal Benazic are getting another taste of playoff hockey with the Manitoba Moose of the International League.
The Moose opened the IHL playoffs Friday with a 5-1 loss to Houston. Game 2 of the series was Saturday in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Morrow and Benazic joined the Moose after the Lynx were eliminated from the postseason. Morrow finished the regular season with one goal and two assists in eight games for the Moose, while Benazic is in his third stint with Manitoba this season.
Four other Augusta players joined teams in the IHL and American League after the season ended.
Goalie Judd Lambert joined the AHL's Kentucky Thoroughblades for the playoffs, but the Blades were swept in two games by Hershey. Lambert was signed as insurance in case one of Kentucky's two goalies went down with an injury. He did not dress for either playoff game.
Defenseman Likit Andersson spent the final week of the regular season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He did not register a point and was minus-4 in two games.
Forward Louis Dumont and defenseman Martin Lapointe joined the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL for the final three regular season games. Neither player registered a point.
HUNGARY TO PLAY: Rookie forward Tamas Groschl has returned home to Hungary to join the Hungarian national team, but said recently he would like to return for a second season in Augusta if the Lynx want him back.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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